The Mayor’s Daughter, Some Dogs, A Mini-Melt: 10-02-11

Pissarro’s Family Tree: Yesterday my husband and I visited The Clark Art Institute on the campus of Williams College in Massachusetts. Viewing the Camille Pissarro exhibit, I thought often of our daughter and missed her by my side. She would have been fascinated by works both of his dying daughter and his dying mother; in the latter piece, the study of candlelight upon her elderly face focused the artistic heart during loss. She would have plied me with multiple questions related to the paintings of his children and wife, mapping out the Pissarro family tree in her head. I missed that interaction. She has a way of taking a two-dimensional object and adding flesh, blood and pathos to it.

The Better Rider: While seated in the lobby by the institute’s coffee kiosk, our daughter called my cell to chat about Pegasus horseback riding and a movie. She loved the movie, “Moneyball,” though, as she reminded me, she is not a great fan of Brad Pitt. But she was very down about the riding. “I am disappointed in myself.” At twenty-one I never had that clarity. “They say I have to post more, and look at the horse and keep him moving more. It’s hard.” She was clearly feeling pressure. “Georgina Bloomberg, she rides much better than me.” Georgina, daughter of the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is one of the best equestrians in the country and we were privileged to see her ride and win the Hampton Classic last year. “Well, honey, I know. But Georgina has been riding all her life, has her own horses, and you took off five years from riding while away at school.” No comfort there. She went on to say that she was “jealous” of Georgina because “she is such a good rider and I am not.” Reality is a subjective thing…is that a contradiction in terms? That these two ladies are worlds apart makes not a bit of difference to our daughter. She and Georgina ride horses and that is enough to draw the parallels.

Dog Parade: Roar, the animal shelter where our daughter will shortly be a volunteer, had their Paws For A Cause fundraiser today in Ridgefield, CT, including the dog walk and group performances at Ballard Park. As a member of SPHERE, our daughter was part of a chorus performance as well as a participant in the dog walk. Her staff, with the addition of a golden lab and her apartment-mate, was gathered with their Sphere group on the Green when we arrived. Dogs were everywhere: marvelous purebreds and mutts, greyhounds and dachshunds, huskies and yorkies…even a distant cousin of our own pooch, Ms. Wags (same breeder). For their performance the SPHERE group members gathered on the bandstand to sing “All You Need Is Love”, and apparently our daughter, prone to shout out lyrics that excite her, as did the title lyric of this song, apparently blasted the ear of the woman in front of her, who turned and told her “don’t shout” rather harshly. That was it. Our daughter said “Are you mad at me?” and though I heard none of this at the time, I saw it all, with our daughter’s face collapsing into a tearful grimace, much hustle around her as folks moved to console her, and finally a reassembling of her parts for the next song. This mini-melt is a typical outcome whenever our daughter experiences raised voices directed at her, accusative and angry. She is struck, as if by a very sharp object, and just breaks. I was so gratified to see fellow SPHERE members, especially a couple of young men, rush to her side during and after the performance, placing arms around her shoulders and uttering words I could not hear but am sure were kindly. In only a few short months, she has found new friends who are “there for me.” Wow.

Origins Of The Mini-Melt: I take responsibility for the mini-melt. As a mom, when the final straw pelted me from above, I would have a mini-melt at whichever kid seemed causal in the mayhem of the moment. And I harbor deep regret. Unfortunately, I was raised in a very neat house and therefore had similar standards with much less help when doing my adult homemaking. One horrible example is the day our daughter decided to fill the laundry room bucket with white flour and water, set it in the center of the kitchen floor and then attempt to place herself in it. Water and flour: what does that make? Paste, a concrete like substance that adheres to all surfaces and hardens. I walked into the kitchen to see the naked girl, smiling broadly, and splashing about as if in a pond with a bunch of fellow ducklings. Shocked by the sight and its implications for cleanup, I yelled out her name with intense disapproval and alarm. Too many such episodes and our daughter carries those awful hurts inside, so that whenever anyone replicates some aspect of mom’s mini-melts, she is crushed, just crushed. I am sorry sweetie. I truly am but alas it is too late. It is in her memory bank of emotional triggers and I believe it is all my fault. I know it is. Parenthood makes us all accomplices in some one, two or three things that hurt those we parent. How bizarre is that?

© Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2011


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